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It's regatta time

Tamil Nadu Sailing Association gets ready to host lone international sailing event in the country.

Its regatta time


It is regatta time in Chennai. Every December, for the last seven years, the Indian International Regatta (IIR), the country’s first and only international event, was here attracting sailors from over 15 countries. This regatta is the major exposure trip to all Indian youth sailors not to mention Chennai’s budding talents. 

The event, held under the auspices of the Yachting Association of India and Tamil Nadu Sailing Association, is a launch-pad for juniors to make a mark and participate in the international events. 

Over the years, Chennai sailors have won many medals, including the Asian Games bronze in 2014 in Incheon which was remarkable because it was achieved in a class that was beyond the limit of Indians and a part of the Olympics. 

Sailors from Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Denmark, UAE, Turkey, Slovenia, Ireland, Czech Republic, Iran, France, Indonesia, Australia and Sweden participated in the Indian Regatta in the last eight years. 

IIR made a big break-through when it was included in the Asian Sailing Federation youth championships. The TNSA officials are confident that this regatta would scale further heights shortly, getting to qualify for the various World Championships. 

Last year, IIR was the first leg of the Asian Youth Sailing Cup 2015-16 and the event was held with the approval of Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of  Home Affairs and External Affairs. The cup was for the combined class of Optimist Laser 4.7 Laser Radial and 29’er previously, but last year, two new classes were added to the youth classes., the 420 and the RS One windsurfer. 

When TNSA was formed 15 years ago, the association had many challenges. To get premises, attract youth to the sport that was not in good shape in the city and find ways to popularise it. 

Former commodore (president) and now vice-commodore of TNSA, Ashok Thakkar recalled the perils of the project in the first wo years. 

“We went to schools with a presentation on a programme called, “Taking sailing to schools.” We had to convince young kids that this was a fun sport. We had to convince the parents that it was a safe sport.We subsidised the sport a lot. But we still have to pay a rent of Rs 1 lakh while the board has approved granting us a discount of 75% of the rent charged. Even now, we are treated on a par with other commercial establishments,” says Thakkar. 

At the same time, TNSA did a wise thing taking advantage of the Government of India scheme (75:25) and bought many boats in 2008. 

To the credit of TNSA, it is undoubtedly the best civilian club in sailing in the country. The  only club to possibly outperform it as far as competitive sailing goes is the Army Yachting Node (AYN), Mumbai. But AYN is not a private club and not run on non-profit like the Chennai association. Further, AYN is also funded and supported by Army.

Varsha-Aishwarya,the pride of TNSA 

Aishwarya Nedunchezhian and Varsha Gautham are at crossroads in their career. Having won a historic bronze medal at the Asian Games in 2014 at Incheon, the Tamil Nadu sailors were on overdrive to qualify for the Olympic Games 2016 but they could not. “After 2014, we have been on a campaign for the 2016 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, we could not qualify,” says Aishwarya, who completed her BA Sociology from MOP Vaishnav College. Right now, they have taken a break from training as their coach Pete Conway of England has left and the new coach is yet to assume charge. “Till March, we have been with Conway but now the camp has been discontinued,” said Aishwarya. The pair is now out of the youth class and should now train for the higher category. “We are too old for the India Regatta (event). It is for under-19. We have to train for 49er FX class which is not there in India regatta. It could have been very useful if we had 49er in Chennai on home turf.” Aishwarya thanked SDAT calling it a “great pillar of strength supporting us till 2020.”  Varsha and Aishwarya sailed away to an unexpected bronze medal in the women’s 29er two-person dinghy behind World Championship winning teams of Thailand and Singapore in Incheon. 

Chitresh sets his sights on 2018 Games 

Fourteen-year-old Chennai sailor Chitresh has set his sights on the 2018 Asian Games in  Jakarta. He had got special mention in the Incheon Asian Games as the youngest promising sailor though he finished only sixth then. Chitresh started sailing in 2010 and in 2011 at the National Coastal Optimist Championship in Kochi. He had bagged a bronze in his class (under-10). That was the beginning. Next year in Mumbai in the same championship in Mumbai, he won the gold. In 2012, Chitresh won the silver in his class (under-12) in the India International Regatta and bagged the gold in the Dr MG Ramachandran Memorial sailing championship in 2013 in Chennai. He capped it with gold medals in Hyderabad and Chennai the same year, the second one coming in the IIR. He participated in Turkey and Netherlands. “The India International Regatta is the only international event in india which gives the advantage to the Indian sailors to compete lwith an international level fleet,” says the 14-year-old. “TNSA has been successfully running this international event with more than 10 countries.”

Chennai climate is ideal for sailing: Aniketh

For 15-year-old Aniketh Rajaram, racing is both a passion and career pursuit. For the Class 11 student of Vidya Mandir, Mylapore, the Indian International the last stop this year before he starts his preparations for the big test, the Asian Games. “The selections will be held only next year and the new coach has not been appointed yet,” said Aniketh, one of the most promising talents in the Optimist class. “I stopped Laser keeping Asian Games in mind.” Aniketh said Chennai is the ideal training ground as the “climate allows us to practise throughout the year.” “It is not the same in European countries. There you can sail only in a few months,” said Aniketh, who has a few medals under his belt, participating in sailing competitions abroad. Aniketh made his mark with the team gold in the Sail the Gulf tournament in Doha in 2013. The TNSA team had, apart from Aniketh, Vishnu Sujesh, Mahesh Balachandr, Naveen Kumanan and Venkatakrishna. Aniketh’s individual brilliance came to the fore in 2014 in the European championship in Du Laoghrie, Ireland where in the Optimist class, he won the gold . The same year, he won the silver in the Optimist overall category.Aniketh was at his best in the Hong Kong Race Week bagging gold in the Optimist and in the ASAF Youth Sailing Cup, he won a silver. 

Sailing simplified

There are many different types of boats for sailing, differentiated by three distinctive characteristics: Hull Type, Keel Type, Mast & Sail Configuration. Together these determine the classes of boat. You can think of them like the different type of cars Sedan, SUV, Coupe, luxury etc.

The “Optimist”, a “dinghy”, is the smallest of all competitively sailed boats for under 15 year olds, and quite simply is the class the world learns to sail in. It is sailed by a single person.

The “Laser” is a larger single person dinghy sailed by those once the they move up in age and size. It comes in 3 sail sizes, after which the various versions of the boat (4.7, radial, full rig) are named.

The 420 is a 2 person dinghy. Sailors choose between these 2 dinghies based on their sailing preferences just like one would choose a car based on personal preferences.

The 29er is a two person «skiff». A key characteristic being the speed of the boat - it is the only boat that sails faster than the speed of the wind. Consequently it is a choice of young sailors who have a “need for speed”.

The RS1 a single person windsurfer, not a sailboat.

Roll of honour

Asian Games 2014 bronze medal. 

Euro Cup Silver and  Women Gold medal 

Asian Youth Sailing Cup 2014-15 – 2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze 

Asian Youth Sailing Cup 2015-16 – 1 gold, 1 silver 

Hong Kong Race Week 2015 - Gold 

53 medal positions in International sailing events of repute till date

Total of 60 plus gold medals won at National events since 2010 

Close to 80% of national squad on national youth classes from TNSA since 2010

First floating pontoon on the East Coast of India 

Largest Optimist fleet of boats in India

Largest civilian club in the country

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